Massive Data Institute Announces Summer 2023 MDI Scholars

The Massive Data Institute (MDI) is pleased to announce our Summer 2023 MDI Scholars Cohort. The MDI Scholars program was launched in 2019 and this summer we have multiple project teams working on topics ranging from forced migration, environmental policy, social media measurement, and education. MDI Scholars are coming from many undergraduate and graduate programs across the University, including Data Science in Public Policy, Data Science and Analytics, Computer Science, Math/Stats, Gender Studies, and Public Policy. 

group of scholars standing in front of stone building

Summer 2023 Project Descriptions

Top-Down Discipline: Linking Political and Carceral Ideology in Schools
Advisor: NaLette Brodnax, Assistant Professor, McCourt School of Public Policy
The influence of cultural and political contexts on students’ performance and behavior is well acknowledged. With this in mind, our project aims to employ hierarchical linear models to estimate carceral ideology scores at the school level and develop an innovative measure of carceral ideology. Additionally, we will explore the prevalence of carceral practices and examine the cultural and political factors that contribute to a school’s adoption of carceral ideology. By conducting this investigation, we seek to enhance our understanding of how cultural and political contexts shape the implementation of carceral practices in educational settings.

Real Time School District Staffing and Enrollment Trends
Advisor: Marguerite Roza, Edunomics Lab Director, and Research Professor in the McCourt School
School district finances are changing rapidly in the wake of the pandemic. To navigate the unstable finances, school district leaders desperately need real time trend data on major financial factors, including staffing and enrollments. This project uses data scraping tools and custom visualizations to build an automatic website that accesses localized trend data, producing visualizations for use by school district leaders, journalists, and policymakers.

The Black Box of School District Purchasing
Advisor: Marguerite Roza, Edunomics Lab Director, and Research Professor in the McCourt School
Little is known about the roughly $60B spent annually by school districts on vendor contracts. This effort involves using statistical efforts to aggregate millions of lines of expenditure data across thousands of school districts in order to investigate purchasing patterns, particularly as they relate to district types and student outcomes. Data analyses are then converted to practitioner-friendly formats in order to inform future purchasing decisions.

Environmental Impact Data Collaborative 
Advisor: Michael Bailey, Walsh Professor in the Department of Government and McCourt School of Public Policy
The Massive Data Institute (MDI) is developing the Environmental Impact Data Collaborative (EIDC) to enable community groups, policymakers, and researchers to discover, access, merge, transform, analyze, visualize, and discuss data in ways that support them to make environmental policy more effective and just. The team is also hosting a virtual informational session about how professors, educators and researchers can unleash the power of EIDC in their classroom; learn more and join on July 13, 2023.

Blending Data to Improve Prediction of Forced Migration
Advisor: Lisa Singh, MDI Director and Professor in the Department of Computer Science
Students will be exposed to an interdisciplinary forced migration project that uses a unique combination of administrative, organic, and survey data to model internal and international forced displacement. Students will be developing emotion detection classifiers that can be used to label the primary emotion of Twitter posts in Arabic, Spanish, and Ukrainian. Students will then use these emotion variables with different forced movement models to determine if they are useful for predicting movement during times of conflict. This project aims not only to teach students about computer science research and data science analysis, but to also help them understand how researchers in other disciplines use computer science algorithms and analytic tools to generate evidence for developing public policy.

Online Conversation and Dobbs vs. Jackson
Advisor: Lisa Singh, MDI Director and Professor in the Department of Computer Science
Expanding on MDI’s previous work on the #BlackLivesMatter and #MeToo online social movements, this project examines online discussion before and after the Dobbs vs. Jackson decision. In particular, this project seeks to investigate the relationship between different salient events and legal decisions and shifts in online conversation.

About the MDI Scholars Program: The MDI Scholars program is an experiential learning opportunity for undergraduate and Master’s students from across the university to work on interdisciplinary research projects with professors and practitioners. These projects connect new methods, new forms of data and/or large-scale computing infrastructure to different societal scale issues, leading to improved public policy.

MDI Scholars